Eithne: Hello. In the middle ages, Liverpool was just a tiny fishing hamlet that didn’t even merit a mention in the Domesday Book. Its population would have been somewhere between 500 and 1000 people, depending upon the severity of the latest plague.
But in 1207 King John decided to create what you could say was a forerunner to Milton Keynes – a new town.
But what I want to know is why King John invited people to come and settle in Liverpool? Surely not just for the sea air? I know, I’ll set up my Eithnescope Visual Transducer to see if we can link up with Dave. He works at the Town Hall, right in the heart of the original seven streets of Liverpool.
Dave: King John wanted to establish a military base in the North West from which he could send his armies overseas to Ireland. But to service these men with supplies he needed to create a thriving market town. So he invited people to settle in the area and there lay the beginnings of Liverpool.
Seven streets form the basis of the town which still exist today, which include
Dale Street, Castle Street, Water Street and Chapel Street.
Eithne: Apparently, people from all over Lancashire came to the area with the promise of work and the opportunity to start a new life. They were allocated strips of land at Town Field where they grew produce to sell at the weekly market. But that’s not all they did…
Dave: People also used craft skills to make pots and pans and anything the local army in Liverpool might need.
In addition to farmers and fishermen the town was soon awash with brewers, butchers, blacksmiths and carpenters. It was very much like a medieval Liverpool One, a deliberately planned village planted next to the watery inlet the Pool rather than a village that had grown up gradually.
A castle was built around this period and was mostly uninhabited and mainly for show. The earliest names of residence appear in the poll tax returns of 1379, which include two former mayors: William son of Adam of Liverpool and Thomas de la Moore. Richard de Sefton was a local landowner whose family name is given to one of the city parks today…
Eithne: I like that business of putting a de between your name. Ethel De Browne. Oh yes, sounds proper posh. Think I might change my name by deed poll.
Watch the Medieval video
Eithne: Hello. It was at the start of the tenth century that the Norse Vikings first settled in the area of Wirral known as Meols. Today there are many places in the area whose name is derived from these early Viking settlers.
So where did these early Vikings come from exactly? Let me set up my Eithnescope Visual Transducer to see if we can link up with Linda and Sonny who live in the Wirral.
Linda: They’d been living in Dublin for many years building boats, Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, all along the Irish coast and they were basically expelled.
Eithne: People say that the Norse leader, Ingimund, had first planned to cross the Irish sea and attack Anglesey, but without much success. So he decided on a more peaceful approach.
Sonny: Ingimund left Ireland in 902 in the Christian calendar and when he got to the Wirral he was able to arrange with the Mercian King, who was sick, but his wife arranged that they could settle in the north of the Wirral.
Linda: Ethelfleda was very shrewd and she put the Vikings on the north of the Wirral. The land wasn’t very good but she thought it was better to have them as friends than trying to invade as they had in Anglesey. So she gave them everything on the Wirral north of Raby and the name ‘by’, it means the border farm, so they weren’t allowed to settle any closer to Chester than Raby.
Eithne: Tell us about the shopping opportunities in the area.
Linda: Meols had been a vital harbour since before people lived here. It was an amazing trading place, the biggest car boot sale in the world if you like. The beach there had always been really important and for the Vikings to be given that to trade from as traders with boats, it fulfilled every ambition that they could have. They also had control of both rivers so they were very, very happy with that.
Eithne: Sounds like they had everything they needed?
Linda: All Vikings were a mixture of raiders, traders, farmers, fishermen; they turned their hand to anything it depended upon the times. So if a warrior was needed, they could take up swords but if a farmer was more productive then they would farm.
Eithne: Of course, Vikings didn’t just settle over on the Wirral. There are lots of place names on this side of the river that are of Viking origin. You might even live there too …. Croxteth, Toxteth, Kirkdale, Aigburth, Aintree, West Derby and Childwall… to name just a few!
Watch the Vikings video